Arsenal relieved to stay in hunt for elusive trophy

Gunners squeeze past Cup holders Wigan on penalties

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger breathed a huge sigh of relief after they beat FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic on penalties in Saturday's semi-final to keep alive their hopes of winning a trophy after a nine-year wait.

Arsenal beat spirited Championship (second-tier) side Wigan 4-2 in the shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time and will meet Hull City or Sheffield United in the May 17 final back at Wembley Stadium.

Having not won any silverware since their FA Cup triumph in 2005, Arsenal were made to sweat against Uwe Rosler's plucky Wigan side who gave Wenger serious concerns that his trophy hoodoo would continue.

"I am relieved because we won... It is important that, mentally, we didn't go out tonight. If you imagine the consequences of going out tonight it is quite worrying," Wenger told reporters.

"It was a cup game and the difference between winning and losing is very, very small," said Wenger, who has won the FA Cup four times.

"That win today will give us a lift for the rest of the season," added the Frenchman whose side have slipped out of the Premier League title reckoning during the run-in.

"The semi-final is all about winning," said Arsenal midfielder Kim Kallstrom. "It was tough but we did it. We had to stay strong mentally and at 1-0 down it gets tough. We were focused and even though it was on penalties, we will take it.

"We have been struggling in recent weeks but you have to deal with that, it's part of the game."

MATCH REPORT

Arsenal beat FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic 4-2 on penalties to win their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday after they fought to a 1-1 draw after extra time.

Santi Cazorla scored the decisive spot kick to put Arsenal into the FA Cup final for the first time since 2005 while Wigan's dream of retaining the trophy ended after Gary Caldwell and Jack Collison had their penalties saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

Wigan took the lead after 63 minutes when Jordi Gomez scored from the spot, needing nerves of steel to score his penalty as he had to wait for three minutes while Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal received treatment.

When he finally did step up Gomez planted his left-foot shot wide of Fabianski who dived the right way but could not reach it. Per Mertesacker had conceded the penalty with a lunging foul on Callum McMananam to leave Arsenal staring at another season without any silverware.

Arsenal equalised after a period of sustained pressure in the 82nd minute which saw Bacary Sagna hit the post, Scott Carson save brilliantly from a Kieran Gibbs header and then Stephen Crainey clear off the line.

Mertesacker made up for conceding the penalty by beating the offside trap to glance his header home from close range.

Arsenal will face the winners of Sunday's semi-final between Hull City and Sheffield United in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 17.

Full-Time

Wigan 3 Arsenal 5 

Arsenal booked their place in the final of the FA Cup after winning by the skin of their teeth against holders Wigan Athletic when 120 minutes failed to break the 1-1 deadlock and penalties had to be resorted to at the Wembley where the Gunners won 4-2 thanks to some brilliant saves by Lukasz Fabianski.

The goalkeeper saved two penalty kicks by substitutes Wigan's Caldwell and Collison, while only Beausejour and McArthur could get the ball past him.

On the other hand Scott Carson who had a brilliant game under the Wigan goal somehow could not pull off a single save against Arteta, Kallstrom, Giroud and Cazorla.

The match began amid a minute's remembrance for the victims of Hillsborough.

Arsenal had reached the last four for a record-equalling 27th time and now are favourites to win the competition for the 11th time.

 Per Mertesacker was both villain and hero. Villain for handing Wigan a penalty which Jordi Gomez scored and hero for scoring the equaliser.

 

PENALTY SHOOT OUT

Arsenal: Cazorla seals it for Arsenal.

Wigan: McArthur does so for Wigan.

Arsenal: Giroud scores for Arsenal.

Wigan: Beausejour gives Wigan some hope by beating Fabianski

Arsenal: Kallstrom scores for Arsenal

Wigan: Fabiaski saves again from Colison. 

Arsenal: Arteta score to put Arsenal ahead.

Wigan: Fabianski saves this one from Gary Caldwell. 

EXTRA TIME

Wigan 1 (Gomez 62") Arsenal 1 (Mertesacker 82")

123" Two minutes to go and the fans have their hands on their heads.

120" From the counter Powell catches the Arsenal defence napping but his angled shot is wide.

120" Sanogo has let Arsenal down today. Here again his shot is weak.

118" Kallstrom in for Ramsey

117" Perch finds Collison whose header is just wide.

115" Finally a good shot at goal and this time from Chamberlain which beats an outstretched Carson but hits the crosspiece and comes back into play.

114"  Fabianski leaves his charge which is unnecessary but Collison fails to capitalise.

112" Chamberlain is on the ground, could be muscle cramp.

EXTRA TIME (First Half)

Wigan 1 (Gomez 62") Arsenal 1 (Mertesacker 82")

110" No goal to decide who is favourite so the teams better gear up for penalties.

109" Fortune tries to play-act near the Arsenal flag kick but referee does not fall for it.

106" At the other end Perch goes for an ambitious shot but shoots into the stands.

105" No breakthrough yet? Chamberlain has a chance but his shot lacks power and placement.

100" Carson is superb under the bar, denying Sanogo from close.

98" Giroud and Sanogo have a good chance but something is amiss here.

97" Powell shows selffishness here. Instead of passing he gives it a first time shot and shoots over.

FULL TIME

Wigan 1 (Gomez 62") Arsenal 1 (Mertesacker 82")

95" Well referee Michael Oliver blows the long whistle and its time for a break but come back for extra-time. 

94" YELLOW! Just a minute to go and Mc Arthur is booked with a yellow.

92" No takers again as Sanogo is again out of position.

90" Five minutes have been added and the tension is palpable.

88" Arsenal push Wigan on the defensive in a bid for the winner. Mertesacker tries for the second goal with a header but its over the bar.

86" Carson dives in time to stop a Giroud shot in a jiffy.

85" Wigan make their third substitution with Calwell in for Ramis as five minutes remain.

Wigan 1 (Gomez 62") Arsenal 1 (Mertesacker 82")

82" GOAL! Mertesacker scores from what looks like an offside position but who cares the Arsenal fans are celebrating even as Wigan appeal.

82" Sagna and Ramsey denied. Sagna's shot hits the woodwork and Ramsey finds Carson in the way.

78" Wigan defence is pretty resolute nipping in the bud any attack from Arsenal.

75" Wnger has 15 minutes to do something out of the ordinary.

73" Desperation is setting in and Oxlade-Chamberlain takes a hasty shot but Carson shows a safe pair of gloves.

70" Arsenal fans seem surprised at Wenger's decision to remove Podolski instead of the slow moving Sanogo.

65" Another substitution from both teams. Giroud in for Podolski and Powell comes in for McManaman.

64" Both teams make a substitution, Gibbs in for Monreal and Collison for McEachran.

Wigan 1 (Gomez 62") Arsenal 0

62" GOAL! Jordi Gomez scores from the penalty spot after McManaman was brought down in the box by Mertesacker.

53" McArthur tries to score from a corner but his shot is lost amid a lot of legs. 

50" Sanogo despite his long legs is slow after a lovely ball from Podolski but Carson steps out to deny him a shot at goal. Poor show by Sanogo.

49" Wigan are showing good temperament whenever under pressure as Cazola's move on the left is stifled.

47" Once wonders if Wenger has given his boys any pep talk as they continue to play in a relaxed manner.

Teams are back in the middle. Lets hope they bring out some spark after an insipid first half.

Half time

Wigan 0 Arsenal 0

45+1 WE are into added time and Arsenal earn a corner but can't make anything of it.

43" Carson who has been brilliant under the bar for Wigan almost made a mess after his poor goalkick landed at Podolski 's feet but unfortunately the Polish striker was pulled up for a foul. 

42" Sanogo is unchalleneged here but just as he reaches the ball he is blocked by Carson who comes charging out. This should have been a goal.

40" Arsenal earn a free-kick just outside the box and Podolski takes it, beats the wall but the ball sails metres away from the target.

37" Wigan get a free-kick but Sagna heads it to safety only for a few seconds as McManaman is on the prowl and give it a try from outside the box. The ball goes wide past the post.

35" The match so far has failed to ignite the Wembley crowd. Arsenal need more attacking play else they may pay the price.

34" After a lot of dilly-dallying by the Arsenal players the ball comes to Sanogo and he has a crack but is wide.

30" McManaman made a sudden dash into the Arsenal box and bangs but the ball deflect for a corner.

28" Wigan finally make their presence felt in the Arsenal danger zone. Fortune relays the ball to Gomez but his shot from the left flank looks innocuous to trouble Fabianski.

25" Sagna moves up for the corner and almost puts Arsenal ahead when from the far post he has a shot which sails across the goal after beating Carson. There is a sigh of disbelief among the Arsenal fans.

24" Ramsey has been doing a lot of running but there seems to be a lack of understanding between him and Sanogo.

21" What's with Arsenal. They started well but now have gone into a shell playing the ball to the defenders and the goalkeeper. Lack of strategy here.

18" Wigan are keen on playing second fiddle to Arsenal at the moment.

16" Arteta cuts off a nice move by Wigan players. More of midfield action at the moment. 

14" Chamberlain once again outpaces the Latics defenders but Carson does well to block him and put it out for a corner.

13" Nacho Monreal make an overlappin run on the left crosses but can'y find an Arsenal striker in sight.

10" Arsenal are keen on holding onto the ball as they look to make a sudden breakaway.

7" Marc-Antoine Fortune is brought down in the Arsenal box but luckily no appeal from Wigan.

4" Oxlade-Chamberlain cross and Sanogo header is saved by Carson right in front of goal.

1" Opening minute and Arsenal make a good dash into the Wigan goal area but Ramsey after a good passing bout with Oxlade-Chamberlain is a bit slow as Carson collects.

Wigan ready to get the game started after a few minutes of silence was observed for the Hillsborough victims. Ninety-six seats have been left empty, with Liverpool scarves draped across them.

There is no time at all to waste as the teams emerge from the tunnel at Wembley after some league matches are completed.

Arsenal make four changes to the side who lost to Everton last time out in the Premier League, with Aaron Ramsey making his first start since Boxing Day. Lukasz Fabianski returns in goal, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yaya Sanogo also start.

Wigan make seven changes from the side who lost to Millwall last time out in the Championship. James Perch, Ivan Ramis, Stephen Crainey, James McArthur, Callum McManaman, Jordi Gomez and Marc-Antoine Fortune all start for the Latics.

STARTING XI

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Cazorla, Podolski, Sanogo.

Subs: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Kallstrom, Akpom, Eisfeld, Giroud.

Wigan: Carson, Perch, Boyce, Ramis, Crainey, McArthur, McEachran, McManaman, Beausejour, Gomez, Fortune.

Subs: Al Habsi, Barnett, Caldwell, Maloney, Espinoza, Collison, Powell.

TEAM NEWS

Arsenal: Midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh) face checks as does full-back Kieran Gibbs (ankle) before the Wembley tie. They are however likely to play.

Wigan: Ben Watson, who scored the winner in last season's final against Manchester City, is out with a broken leg.

Latics boss Uwe Rosler must decide between Scott Carson and Ali Al Habsi for the goalkeeping slot. 

PROBABLE FORMATIONS

Arsenal: 4-2-3-1

Wigan: 5-4-1

STAT ATTACK

Arsenal have never met Wigan before in the FA Cup. The overall head to head record is played 20, Arsenal wins 15, Wigan wins three and draws two.

The last time Arsenal met Wigan was in May 2013 just after their FA Cup final win over Man City. The Latics were relegated after losing 4-1.

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last five FA Cup games, including three in three substitute appearances this season.

Wigan have won 9 of their last 11 matches in FA Cup.

Arsenal have won 6 of their last 7 matches in FA Cup.

Arsenal have scored at least 2 goals in their last 4 matches in FA Cup.

The Latics are unbeaten in their last 12 FA Cup matches, winning 10 and drawing two.

Wigan have scored at least 2 goals in their last 3 matches in FA Cup.

PREVIEW

Winning this year's FA Cup would give Arsenal a taste for silverware again and could provide a launching pad for another era of success for the north London club, Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky said.

Not one of Arsenal's current squad, Rosicky included, has ever won a trophy with the club while many such as Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere are still waiting for their first honours anywhere in senior club football.

A winner of the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund before signing for Arsenal, Rosicky knows just how vital it is that the club take advantage of this year's opportunity to win the FA Cup having seen all the big clubs fall by the wayside.

"It would be a big lift for everyone because you still have a lot of players here who don't know how it feels to win a trophy," the Czech said ahead of Saturday's semi-final against second tier Wigan Athletic, who stunned Manchester City to win the trophy last season.

"Mainly the guys who are coming through like Jack (Wilshere), Aaron (Ramsey) and all these boys. They don't know how success tastes, so it is a massive chance for us to win a trophy this year.

"It would be a building block for these boys."

Arsenal, without a trophy since they won the FA Cup in 2005, have suffered an alarming slump in form in recent weeks as their Premier League title challenge evaporated with heavy defeats by Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton.

With their top-four position under threat the players have come in for criticism but striker Olivier Giroud believes Saturday is the perfect opportunity to get back on track.

"The Premier League seems to be difficult now but we have the FA Cup, we have a great opportunity to show a strong answer on the pitch this weekend. We want to do it together and to look forward," the Frenchman said.

"We really want to bounce back and concentrate on this FA Cup that we really want to win for our fans and for the club. After that, we know we have five finals in the league.

"It's just we have to come back to something simple and restart to the basics, like more commitment, more determination," he added.

With Hull City or third tier Sheffield United awaiting the winners of Saturday's semi-final, Arsenal may never have a better chance to re-stock the trophy cabinet.

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